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Meet Conductor Paul Daniel posted 18 Dec 2019

Meet Conductor Paul Daniel

Conductor Paul Daniel tells us about the five pieces of music, book and luxury he would take to a desert island ahead of the New Year Viennese Whirl concert at Leeds Town Hall on Sunday 29 December

Maybe it’s harder for musicians, or maybe it’s just impossible for me, but having to discard all the wonderful music I’ve treasured over the years, just to save five golden greats: they change from day to day! I’m not even going to try to make a definitive choice!

I couldn’t do without a daily dose of JS Bach. Ever since it was possible to stick music in your ears on the go, I’ve matched his music to walks and treks and runs all over the world. This summer, it was Glenn Gould again (a perennial favourite, I could listen to the complexities and beauty of his playing over and over); right now, just for fun, it’s Giya Kancheli’s Bridges to Bach, and other brilliant transcriptions played by Gidon Kremer and his Kamerata Baltica. But then, the St Matthew Passion - which runs through my mind from the years singing it as a boy, memorised from cover to cover before I could begin to appreciate all its transcending beauty... could I take the smallest possible ensemble of players and singers to perform a bit every day...?

There’s something unfathomable about the late works of Beethoven, especially the late sonatas and quartets, which I will never give up trying to fathom! Recently I’ve had the great pleasure to get to know the pianist Grigory Sokolov, to listen up close to him searching for some of those mysteries in his playing. He will never play with orchestras, he hasn’t done an interview for years and years, he will only allow a tiny handful of recordings from live performances: that seems to me to be a kind of ideal way to live as a musician. I could happily listen to his Hammerklavier performance on disc if all other music stopped. 

A solo human voice to sing to me on my island - that seems essential for a poor lonesome castaway. I’d take Dietrich Fischer Dieskau with Gerald Moore and one of their earlier recordings of Die Winterreise. And also Joni Mitchell - I’ve worn out the stylus with Blue, so maybe the wonderfully hypnotic Clouds, or the break free spirit of Hejira. On my enchanted island, could I somehow get Fischer Dieskau and Joni Mitchell together for a duet? They definitely should have sung together, just once.

A symphony orchestra on a desert island? That seems completely incongruous. But then, if you stop to think, the whole idea of this wonderful musical instrument called an ‘orchestra’ - it’s an incongruous miracle that the idea ever got off the ground. I couldn’t be without it for one day. But what would it play? Could I loop together one continuous work, to be able to keep several symphonies together? It would definitely include Brahms 3, and very likely the life affirming Nielsen 3, and Mahler 3... and I’d have to splice in the 4th of Sibelius, a Harnoncourt performance of Mozart, and Beethoven 7 as long as it was conducted by Carlos Kleiber, and Elgar 1, and...and...

[Editor: that seems to be rather more than five favourite piece, but we’ll let you off, just this once!] 

My luxury? Totally impractical, because it would break down on the first day - a perfect, concours condition 1959 Frogeye Sprite. I still scan the classical car magazines for one, and have done ever since my RAF uncle owned one and I had to sit on his lap to reach the steering wheel. Maybe for my book, I should take an owner’s manual, and some tools too, and learn how to repair car engines - that’s a skill I have always really envied. 

Book for Paul Daniel conducting the New Year Viennese Whirl concert at Leeds Town Hall on Sunday 29 December.